Young adults' reactions to infant crying
SourceInfant Behavior and Development, 37, 1, (2014), pp. 33-43
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI ON
Infant Behavior and Development
An infant's optimal development is determined to a great extent by the adequate and sensitive responses of the caregiver. The adequacy and sensitivity of a reaction to an infant in distress (i.e. crying) will partly depend on the causal attributions of the crying and on the individual's sympathy for the infant. Being female, prior caring experiences, and multiparity have shown to be linked to more sympathetic, tolerant and less hostile emotional responses to crying. However, little is known about other factors explaining inexperienced future caregivers' reactions to infant crying. The present paper's goal is to shed more light on the subject by looking at how personality factors, caregiving interest, sex, promptness of the reaction, and gender identity are related to emotional reactions and causal attributions to crying in a population of young adults without children. One hundred and ninety-one childless university students participated (126 females; ages 18-35 years). The participants completed questionnaires on personality, gender identity and caregiving interest, and listened to an audio sample of an infant crying, reporting their emotions and their causal attributions to the crying. The results showed that experiencing anger was associated with more child-blaming attributions to the crying, while quickness of response and feelings of sympathy predicted more child-oriented attributions. The latter was stronger in males. Explicit care interest decreased child-blaming causal attributions more for men than for the women. Interestingly, solely in the females' personality factors neuroticism and conscientiousness played a role in child blaming attributions together with anger. These findings suggest that the motives that young adults attribute to a crying infant depend in males on the emotions triggered by the crying, responsiveness and care interest. While in females, emotions, responsiveness and personality affect the causal attribution to the crying. Future research is needed in order to determine whether these attributions are also linked to young adults' actual behaviour towards a crying infant.
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